Maintaining a Healthy Weight with MS
I have never been morbidly obese but with MS and the many medications I have been on over the years, my weight has had its fair share of ups and downs. I try not to obsess over my weight, but I notice that I feel worse when I’m heavier. When it comes down to it, I truly believe your weight can make or break how you feel with MS. Maintaining a healthy weight isn't always a walk in the park, but it is doable. Weight does matter.
Putting my eating habits under a magnifying glass
After I had my son in 2015, I was the heaviest I had ever been. When I got off of my medication to have a baby, I gained approximately 30 pounds, and then with my pregnancy, I gained another 30, which left me feeling very overweight and uncomfortable after I gave birth. I’m only 5 foot 4 inches, so that extra weight was hard on my short frame. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I had a reality check and started actually paying attention to what I was eating. Once I put my eating habits under a magnifying glass, I realized that they were not good. I had many things I needed to change.
A new focus on diet and exercise
I needed to have a diet and exercise makeover. Being overweight can actually worsen your MS symptoms and cause other issues along the line such as heart disease. This is something I noticed when I was at my highest weight, too. I felt terrible all of the time. However, it’s a catch-22 because trying to take control and manage your weight with MS is difficult. As we all know, the fatigue can make it hard to want to remain physically active, especially when it feels like you’re trudging through quicksand.
Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and more
And honestly, when you’re that tired and not feeling well, the last thing on your mind is trying to change up your diet. Even after making changes to my eating habits and introducing exercise into my daily routine, I’ve struggled with weight fluctuation thanks to MS. But, it's not just the physical symptoms that affect our weight either. Anxiety and depression can also cause our want to exercise to diminish. Not to mention when you’re down sometimes, it's easy to turn to food for comfort. So, how can we watch our weight and feel our best with all of these things running against us?
Adjust your diet
For me, this wasn’t an overnight thing. It took a few months to get into the swing of things. My first step was to download the app MyFitnessPal. I love that it’s free and you can track your food and exercise daily. Once I started visually seeing all that I was eating every day, it became easier to see where I needed to make changes. For me, that meant making smarter food choices by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains as well as lean protein. Once I ditched most of the junk, it made a world of difference.
Water intake is so important when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. Drinking water is a natural appetite suppressant. It helps take up space in the stomach which helps make you believe you’re full sooner. Also, if you grab a drink of water when you’re hungry, it can help ease the urge to do unnecessary snacking. You may not always be as hungry as you think; you may actually be thirsty. It is recommended that you drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. In the beginning, this seemed impossible to me. I was not a water-lover. However, over time, it was something I got used to, and now I can’t go a day without my water. I don’t always hit my daily water goal, but I do drink as much as I can. I find that having a big glass of ice water with lemon makes it more enjoyable for me.
Ease into exercise
Again, this was not an overnight thing for me. When I began working to lose all of the weight I gained with my son, I started with diet first. In my case, once I started eating right, the weight came off pretty quickly. I found that once the extra weight was gone that the desire to exercise followed. I eased into it slowly, though. When I first began, I only exercised 12 minutes a day, and then I gradually turned that into 20 to 30 minutes a day. Thirty minutes a day is all you need to establish a good exercise routine. It’s also important to remember that there isn’t one exercise routine that fits all. Do what works for YOU. If that means just taking a ten-minute walk every day, then that’s okay! Something is better than nothing. Some simple and effective workouts I recommend are:
- The Daily Dozen with Denise Austin: This is what I started doing when I decided to add in exercise. It’s 12 minutes a day, and you can take it at your own pace. She has a DVD, or you can find most of these on Youtube as well. I love how you can find almost anything on Youtube these days!
- Leslie Sansone Walk At Home: You can find this DVD at your local Walmart or on YouTube as well. I love these videos because I can walk an easy mile in no time in the comfort of my home. I don’t have to worry about getting out and dealing with the weather; I can walk a mile in my living room!
- Yoga: Yoga is great for MS. I’ve actually written a previous article on yoga alone. You can also find easy yoga for beginners' workouts on Youtube. Yoga with Adriene is one of my favorites. I love how she walks you through each move and makes you feel like you’ve been doing yoga all along.
- Pilates: I love pilates because it strengthens and stabilizes your core muscles. This, in turn, helps improve our posture and balance. I also love that many Pilates moves can be modified to fit the level you’re in at the moment. If I had to choose a favorite workout, Pilates would be it. I genuinely enjoy the 20-minute workout with Winsor Pilates. Again, you can find this on Youtube, and she easily guides you through the routine as well as shows great modifications. I feel my best after a good Pilates workout; it helps stretch out my stiff muscles and leaves me feeling stronger afterward.
Getting exercise in
These are just a few of my favorite ways to get my exercise in. You don’t even have to work out every single day. If you can only do three days a week, that’s perfectly fine! As I said earlier, even by going by all of this advice I’ve given you, I have still struggled to be at the perfect weight. My weight still fluctuates, and I’m not always in tip-top shape. However, getting into a good diet and fitness routine has made all of the difference.
A week off doesn't mean starting from scratch
It’s easier to quit paying constant attention to that number on the scale when you know you’re doing what you can to look and feel your best. I still slip up, and there are weeks I don’t exercise as I should and don’t eat the best. We are human, and that’s going to happen. There are also weeks where I don’t feel my best, and I know I need to listen to my body. But, what’s most important is that I don’t quit. A week off doesn’t mean all of my progress is gone. It’s important to remember that weight loss and fitness is a journey. It’s not a quick fix.
Establishing good habits
All it takes is making one small change a week to establish good habits that will last a lifetime. I hope that if you’re struggling with weight as I have, that this article encourages you. I want to remind you, that the journey may not be easy but it’s always worth it! Listen to your body, and most importantly do what’s best for YOU.
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